After a rain-delayed draw against Toronto FC, the Houston Dynamo begin a three game in a week stretch in San Jose to close out the season series between the two clubs. They’ll be hoping to begin the stretch with a win. It would be the first for the team since a July 2 win over the Philadelphia Union. On the flip side, the Earthquakes haven’t lost since July 8 against FC Dallas. One team which will be looking to change their run of form while the other is looking to keep it going to catch up and surpass the Portland Timbers for the final playoff spot.
After their 1 – 1 draw in Houston a few weeks back, the Quakes tied Eastern Conference leaders NYCFC and defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada. More importantly and especially for this game, they signed Swedish striker Henok Goitom to help them find the back of the net more often. They’re still tied with the Dynamo as the most inept offense in the Western Conference and tied for third worst overall. Dominic Kinnear is hoping that Goitom will pair up nicely with Chris Wondolowski to put the ball in the net.
The Swedish striker spent the bulk of his career in Spain where he had some middling success in La Liga and the second division. He really raised eyebrows when he went back home and joined his hometown club of AIK Solna where he registered 53 goals and 24 assists in 114 games. After a brief layover back in Spain, he’s hoping to recreate his success here. He has yet to appear for the club but it looks like Friday’s match against the Dynamo could be his first chance.
It’s a resume that isn’t too dissimilar from the Spanish trio the Dynamo had this season, and the Quakes will hope he’s more Agus and Raul Rodriguez than David Rocha (if you catch yourself saying “Who?”, that’s the point).
Also in the realm of new faces for their team, this game will also be the first chance for the Dynamo to play Erick Torres after the Mexican National Team crashed out of the Rio Olympics, failing to defend their Gold Medal. He was (unsurprisingly) poor in the minutes he got in Brazil, largely due to lack of minutes over the past two years. Earlier this season, Wade Barrett said he’d rely more on Torres down the stretch. With his national team duties finished for the year (he’s unlikely to get senior minutes for Qualifiers), he’ll be ready for selection. What fans have been clamoring to see is Torres given some meaningful time with Colombian striker Mauro Manotas.
Not so much that they think either one, or both paired together, will magically turn this club’s fortunes around in 2016. Fans know that the season is long over and done with. Regardless, fans want change and allowing either one to prove themselves for the 2017 season will show evidence that the status quo isn’t working and frankly won’t work.
In the good news department, center back David Horst is back from his one game suspension and will likely slide right back into the starting lineup alongside Agus. With Costa Rican Keyner Brown to back them up, the Dynamo now have a healthy, full selection of center backs and won’t have to rely on Jalil Anibaba to cover for them. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect too. DaMarcus Beasley still isn’t completely recovered from his injury and Abdoulie Mansally was ejected from the Dynamo’s previous game. Jalil will slide out wide to his usual right back spot while Sheanon Williams will cover the left flank.
The defense will need to be sharp as Wondo has had quite the season so far against the Dynamo, registering a pair of assists and a goal so far. Whether Goitom plays or not, Wondolowski can’t be allowed to have such an impact on the game.
The one thing for fans to keep an eye on will be the striker position. Hopefully it will be Torres or Manotas starting and they will have to show well and score a goal. The youngster did extremely well against Toronto but wasn’t able to find the back of the net, nor has he in league play yet. He’s going to have to do that if he wants to stick with this team going into next season (if given the chance…). Doubly so, triply so, in Torres’ case.
Unfortunately this game has a loss written all over it. With the ‘Quakes performing well lately, the Dynamo not playing (especially on the road), and with Barrett playing conservative everywhere, it’s unlikely they’ll grab three full points. On the bright side it’s hard seeing this team fall apart as they did during their last trip out to Northern California either. Expect a 1 – 0 or 2 – 0 loss. If the latter it’s likely to come late in the game as the Dynamo push for the draw.
The result won’t matter so much as who is on the field for it and how they perform.